PETER O'TOOLE: A Biography by Michael Freedland

PETER O'TOOLE: A Biography

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Undistinguished celebrity-biographer Freedland (Maurice Chevalier, Al Jolson, etc.) does his usual bland-and-routine job on star O'Toole--with role-by-role anecdotes, periodic outbursts of gush (""Perhaps the greatest actor of his generation""), and no real attempt to explain why O'Toole's career has gone so awry. Son of a Galway bookie, Peter tried newspaper work, then the Navy, before deciding to study drama at RADA--in the glittery class of 1955. Triumphs at the Bristol Old Vic followed, leading to Shakespeare at Stratford, including a celebrated Shylock. But, though signed up for a long-term contract there, with Peter Hall as mentor, the chance to play Lawrence of Arabia came along--launching now-superstar O'Toole into ""two totally different trajectories: the career he wanted as an actor and the one he found he couldn't do without, as a money-making machine."" Some of the subsequent films were fine--Becket, Lion in Winter (with K. Hepburn, ""a marvellous sparring partner"")--but most were illchosen, shabby. Attempts to return to the stage were uneven, with a bad Hamlet and, later, a legendarily disastrous Macbeth (the most detailed sequence here). His health deteriorated; his drinking problem (Freedland never calls it alcoholism) continued; wife Sian Phillips eventually left the frequently unfaithful O'Toole for a much-younger lover of her own. And, despite the 1981 success of The Stunt Man, Freedland's biography ends with O'Toole ""off the hard stuff,"" but at low ebb. . . especially since the book was apparently finished before the zesty (if rather creepily autobiographical) triumph of My Favorite Year. Gossip-seekers will find a few backstage/off-screen tidbits: bedroom doings with a transsexual model during Lawrence; an affair with a Mexican waittress, assorted, manic O'Toole hijinks. But, while thoroughly superficial, Freedland's account is admiring rather than sleazy--and O'Toole fans will probably find this an inoffensive, reasonably informative rundown.

Pub Date: Aug. 22nd, 1983
Publisher: St. Martin's